Alabaster BOE member mentors sixth-graders each Friday
By NEAL WAGNER / Managing Editor
Each Friday afternoon for the past several months, Alabaster Board of Education Vice President Derek Henderson has been helping to build a better future for five students at the Thompson Sixth Grade Center.
For about 45 minutes each week, Henderson, a member of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, has been serving as a mentor to a group of students who needed “a little more attention” to help them succeed in the classroom, said TSGC Principal Neely Woodley.
“We had a couple of students that we felt needed a positive role model,” Woodley said. “We brainstormed, and we called (Student Services Coordinator) Dorann (Tanner), and she suggested Mr. Henderson.”
Henderson said it didn’t take him long to volunteer to help the students.
“They asked, and I didn’t say no,” Henderson said with a laugh.
During his first meeting with the students early in the 2013-2014 school year, Henderson encouraged the sixth-graders to talk about their future goals, their career aspirations and their classwork.
“The next meeting, we spent some time in the gym playing basketball,” Henderson said. “That teaches them to work as a team and communicate.
“We talk about grades, we talk about the things that are challenging to them in their classes,” Henderson added. “The main thing is that it gets them talking about things.”
Each week, Henderson encourages the students to update him on what they have done to achieve their goals, and asks them to discuss any problems they are having in the classroom.
“They are a great bunch of guys,” Henderson said. “I tell them I don’t want to hear about them acting out in class, and I expect the very best they’ve got.”
Since Henderson began volunteering at the school, he and Woodley said they have noticed a difference in the students’ attitudes, grades and work ethic.
“It has really made a difference,” Woodley said. “I think one day they are going to look back and say, ‘That time in sixth grade was really a turning point in my life.’
“This has been everything I hoped and more,” Woodley said.